Breaking China (It’s Not About Teacups)

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on August 11, 2019

When Donald Trump ran for President in 2016, he would say, “China,” and the boos would begin. Now, the Chinese people themselves might be doing a bit of booing.

Why? Because the Chinese economy is in trouble. After years of Chinese economic warfare againt America, America has started fighting back.

China’s Theft

First, the U.S. is cracking-down on China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property. The Chinese regularly steal our technologies and innovations. They do it to keep up economic growth, of course. They also do it to support their “developing cyber, satellite, and conventional military power,” according to one China watcher. From 2011 through 2018, China had a hand “in 90 percent of all economic espionage cases” our Justice Department dealt with.

This is economic warfare. China’s theft of American ideas costs us up to $600 billion annually. That’s not to mention the advantages it gives China.

The Trump administration is putting the skids on China’s efforts. In April the President said, “Protecting the innovations, creations, and inventions that power our country are vital to our economic prosperity and national security.”

This kind of policy means China will be less able to act like a parasite on American ingenuity. With less access to America’s R&D, the Chinese will become less competitive in the global marketplace.

China’s Pollution

Second, China is struggling with its industrial pollution. The country’s troubles aren’t all of America’s making. In Beijing, the air is ten times dirtier than what the World Health Organization says is acceptable. In China as a whole, air pollution has been devastating. About 1.6 million Chinese died in a single year (2013) simply from breathing the filthy air.

China’s rivers are also heavily polluted. The country is working to clean them up, but there’s a long way to go. About 70 percent of China’s water sources have been found clean enough for human consumption. But in many areas, including Beijing, water quality has declined.

These things are a drain on China’s economy. These problems will cost a ton to remedy.

China’s American Friends

Third, many American companies have been shoring-up China’s economy. Now their actions are getting a close look.

For example, Google has been working with the Chinese on artificial intelligence. Along with other firms, Google has been helping Chinese tech giant Huawei develop technology that can be used to listen to private conversations. Trump has issued an order to prevent American firms from working with Huawei. Senators Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, and Tom Cotton are also pushing Google. Does it plan to keep “helping Huawei install listening devices into American homes” if the Trump blacklist ends? 

It also appears that one of Google’s top scientists has been working with the Chinese to develop a computer technology. Among other things, it could help Chinese fighter pilots “select fast-moving targets on a touch screen with unprecedented speed and accuracy.”

Google denies this. But commercial technology can be transferred directly to military applications. And the Chinese communist government and its joined-at-the-hip military are ready to exploit it.

So, if the U.S. puts a halt to American companies’ work with China’s tech firms, we’ll be putting a crimp the size of Lake Erie in China’s tech revolution. That will be another blow to China’s economic growth.

China’s Maoists

There are other factors. The Trump trade tariffs are hitting the Chinese economy hard. Tariffs are blunt instruments, and can cause real pain to American producers and consumers. But what choice does Trump have?

The Maoists at the helm of China are beginning to reap what they have sown. For their own people, the harvest is going to be pretty bleak.


Rob Schwarzwalder is a senior contributor at The Stream and a senior lecturer at Regent University.

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